The Yankees go for their second straight sweep following the All-Star Break today as they face off against the Orioles. The first two games of this series have been enjoyable, with the Yankees walking off with a 2-1 victory on a Hideki Matsui home run on Monday, and taking a sizable lead on Tuesday en route to a 6-4 win.
Hopefully today’s game is one of those stress-free blowouts. Not only because it’d be nice to go into the evening with a win to guarantee remaining in first place, but because there are a few guys in the pen who haven’t had much work lately. That’s partly a product of the starting pitching, but also a product of Joe Girardi‘s lack of faith in them in high-leverage spots. It’d be nice to get Mark Melancon, David Robertson, and Brian Bruney some mop-up innings when the Yanks are up big.
A.J. Burnett takes the bump for the Yanks this afternoon. After a shaky start Burnett has rolled lately, though he had some trouble in his first start after the break, pitching on eight days’ rest. Even without his A game, he held the Tigers to three runs over six innings. The five walks didn’t help, but A.J. didn’t let them hurt too much. We’re looking for more of the June 14 through July 8 A.J., the one with the sub 2.00 ERA and gaudy strikeout numbers.
On the other side is Jason Berken, the second rookie the Yankees will face in three days. He’s had a rough go in his first 10 starts, picking up a win his debut but failing to do so in his next nine. He hasn’t reached six innings or 100 pitches since June 18 against the Mets, and even then he allowed four runs.
A sixth round pick in 2006 out of Clemson, Berken got through the O’s system a level a year, though this year was his AAA year (he also started the year in AA but was moved up quickly). He impressed there, allowing just three runs in 25.2 innings over five starts. He’s not really a strikeout guy, but manages to keep his walks and homers low.
He’s a fastball-change-slider-curve guy, who mixes his pitches. He throws his fastball 60 percent of the time and gives just about equal time to the other three. The fastball averages around 92, so it’s not bad, and the change takes off about 9 mph. It doesn’t look like any of them is an out pitch, but he mixes things up enough to keep guys off balance.
Yanks get a small break after this, as the next game is 7 p.m. tomorrow. It was supposed to be an off-day, but instead they’ll make up an April rain-out against the A’s, and then play them in a regular three-game set.
And on the mound number thirty-four, A.J. Burnett.
Save for the limited action he saw in the 2007 season, Justin Duchscherer has posted a good if not excellent ERA in each season he’s pitched with the Oakland A’s from 2003 through 2008. Yet fans outside the Bay Area aren’t necessarily aware of Duchscherer. He’s an under-the-radar type guy who quietly goes about his business, and goes about it well. Given his and the A’s current circumstances, he’s a prime candidate for a trade. There’s just one complication.
Duchscherer is a cut fastball (high 80s, low 90s), overhand curve, slider type pitcher. He strikes out a decent number of guys, around 8 per nine as a reliever and was at 6 per nine as a starter in 2008. He also doesn’t walk many people, 1.5 per nine as a reliever in 2006 and 2.2 per nine as a starter in 08. Even better, he keeps the ball in the park, allowing less than a homer per nine over most of his career. This profiles him as a solid option at both starter and reliever.
Why would Billy Beane want to trade this seemingly good pitcher? Easy answers: The A’s are out of contention, and Duchscherer is a free agent after this season. He also makes $3.9 million this year, so Beane could save over a million by shipping him elsewhere. He might as well. What’s worth more to the A’s right now, a million bucks and change, or having Justin Duchscherer on the team? Plus, a team might be willing to give up some kind of talent, probably in the form of a player to be named later.
Wait — why would the A’s only get a player to be named later? Duchscherer is currently hurt, and hasn’t pitched all season because of elbow troubles. In fact, he hasn’t pitched since mid-August last year. He just began a rehab program, and should get into a minor league game over the next few days. Yet, the trade deadline is fast approaching. If the Yanks wanted Duke, they’d have to trade for him as an injured player. That might not be bad — I’m sure the Yanks would like him rehabbing at their own facilities. It does mean an added level of risk.
If the Yankees want to explore this option, they need to get it done before the deadline. Why? Because once the calendar flips to August, players need to clear waivers in order to be traded — or they need to be claimed by a team willing to trade for them. The Yankees, hopefully still atop the AL East in August, probably wouldn’t get a chance to put in a claim. Another team that could use some pitching, the Boston Red Sox, would likely put in a claim, blocking the Yankees and opening themselves up for a trade.
There are other teams too, of course, and for that reason Beane might hold on until August. There’s risk in that, too, in that he could face a team just looking to block a potential trade. Beane could then foist Duke and his remaining salary on said team, but then he’d get nothing in return — in other words, he would have been better off having accepted a PTBNL at the deadline.
The injury makes it a complicated situation, as does the hip injury which kept Duchscherer out of action for most of the 2007 season. Still, it’s a decent gamble. No, Duke is nowhere near Roy Halladay (even though Buster Olney tries to pump up Duke by making the comp in numbers), but he’s a solid option for both the pen and the rotation. In fact, he might be better suited as a starter. Just check out this tidbit:
Duchscherer’s call to the rotation is actually a very interesting story. The A’s had kept Justin in the ‘pen, thinking that his arthritic hip wouldn’t be able to stay healthy over a 150- 200-inning season. But Justin, who apparently has a slightly nervous/anxious personality, found that the uncertainty of a late-inning role aggravated his IBS–Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is an extremely common disease of the gastro-intestinal system; it causes bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhoea. It’s a twentieth-century problem, brought on by stress. And you can imagine that pitching the eighth inning for an MLB team would be kinda stressful. During the middle innings, Justin, sensing that he would have to take the mound, protect a lead, and not embarrass himself in front of a national audience, would have to leave the bench and run to the washroom.
So the A’s made him a starter, thinking that the certainty of knowing exactly when and where he was going to pitch would calm him down and ease his GI problems.
So the dude has a lot of problems — elbow, hips, IBS — but when he’s on he’s a quietly solid pitcher. Any team could use one of those players. The Yanks should certainly explore this option.
While the Yankees downed the Orioles last night to move into sole possession of first place, Melky Cabrera did not have a night to remember. He went 0 for 4 and saw his triple slash numbers decline to .274/.333/.418. For the first time all season, Melky’s OPS+ has dipped below 100. He is now a below-average hitter for the Yanks.
Earlier in the year, things were looking up for the Melk Man. He was hitting .327/.400/.571 through the end of April and followed that up with a .321/.348/.429. The power drop was precipitous, and the decline in his IsoD, the difference between his batting average and on-base percentage, was notable. Yet, through the end of May, he was still hitting .323/.368/.481, and we all would have taken it.
Last night’s 0-fer caps what has been a miserable two months for Melky. Since the start of June, he is just 29 for 130, good for a .223 batting average, and has a .297 on-base percentage. He is slugging just .353 in that stretch, and his OPS has declined to .751, a drop of over .200 points since the end of April.
We can’t really be surprised by Melky’s post-spring slump. In 2008, he had a stellar April, hitting .299/.370/.494 and then put up a triple slash line of .235/.281/.300 through the end of the season. It’s little consolation that his 2009 swoon is a slight improvement over his 2008 nose dive. He’s still producing at a level that should get him benched.
At this point, I don’t know what to do with Melky Cabrera. We’ve long been accused of being Melky haters, and to a certain extent, we are. But we don’t hate Melky due to any sort of personal grudge. We hate him because Joe Girardi insists on playing him in spite of the numbers.
Melky Cabrera has over 1900 plate appearances at the Big League level and has never managed to be an above-average hitter for more than two months at a time. While his fielding is good, it can’t overcome his inability to get on base or hit for average. He is basically a fourth outfielder in sheep’s clothing.
The Yankees probably won’t look to improve upon center field at the trade deadline. They would end up spending far too many prospects on a player who just won’t be that good. But at the same time, they can’t keep sending Melky Cabrera out there day in and day out. It’s time for Brett Gardner to be the de facto center fielder. When or if he shows he can’t handle it, the Yanks can begin to think about ways to fill that hole, but the reign of Melky and his .297 on-base percentage since June 1 needs to end.
Sergio Mitre‘s final line tonight was not too flattering: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Yet through the first five innings he was able to scatter the hits and limit the damage. In fact, after Brian Roberts led off the game with a double, Mitre allowed no extra base hits. He did allow three hits in the sixth, though, which plated two Baltimore runs and ultimately chased him from the game. The Yanks had already scored six by that point, and the bullpen held the Orioles in check as the Yanks took their fifth straight contest, 6-4.
The early scoring matched that of Monday’s contest. In the first Nick Markakis singled in Roberts, who had advanced to third on an Adam Jones ground out. The Yankees went down quietly in the first, but manufactured a run in the second on a walk, stolen base, and a pair of sac flies. Unlike Monday, that score didn’t remain until the bottom of the ninth. In fact, the Orioles picked up a run in the second. They would not hold it for long.
Through two Rich Hill didn’t look that bad. He didn’t have any strikeouts, but he also had only that one walk to Alex Rodriguez. The third would be his undoing, and it all started with a walk to Cody Ransom. That led to a bases loaded, two outs situation for Alex Rodriguez, who came through big time with a single to left. That plated two, giving the Yankees the lead back. They would not squander it.
Robinson Cano tacked on two with a homer in the fourth inning, putting the Yankees ahead 5-2. Johnny Damon would make it 6-2 later that inning. Mitre owes them a beer. If not for their tack-on runs, the sixth inning could have been a bit uglier. But the big lead allowed the Yanks to stave off the rallying Orioles, holding them to just two runs. It would be enough for the bullpen.
Other than Markakis’s single off Phil Coke to lead off the eighth, the bullpen was perfect. Even with the single they doubled Markakis off, so the bullpen faced the minimum number of hitters. Mo capped it off with his 27th save of the season, and the Yankees, with the help of the Texas Rangers, pulled into sole possession of first place.
They’ll have to defend their spot soon enough. It’s a day game, A.J. Burnett vs. rookie Jason Berken. Then Oakland comes to town. On a parting note, the Yanks are lined up well right now. They have four against Oakland, followed by three in Tampa and then three in Chicago. Mitre misses the beast of Tampa, as does Pettitte. Nothing better than throwing your best at the team creeping up behind you.
- RHP Kevin Whelan to Triple-A Scranton
- RHP Humberto Sanchez to Double-A Trenton
- LHP Trenton Lare to Low-A Charleston
- RHP Matt Richardson to Short Season Staten Island
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Columbus)
Kevin Russo & The Duncans: all 0 for 3 – was hit by a pitch & stole a bag … Shelley walked & threw Matt LaPorta out at home from RF … Eric drove in a run & K’ed
Ramiro Pena, Austin Jackson, Yurendell DeCaster, Colin Curtis & Frankie Cervelli: all 1 for 4 – Pena swiped a bag & K’ed … Jackson doubled & K’ed twice … DeCaster hit a solo jack & K’ed twice … Curtis doubled, scored a run & K’ed … Cervelli K’ed twice, but has a hit in every game he’s played with SWB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7-10 GB/FB – 62 of 90 pitches were strikes (68.9%) … he became the franchise’s career wins record holder
Damaso Marte: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 11 of 20 pitches were strikes (55%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 9 of 14 pitches were strikes (64.3%)
They’re not paying him $300M for two run singles!!!
Hey, kinda looks like A.J. Burnett, right?
It’s game two of the Yanks-Orioles series, and the story from the Yankees standpoint is Sergio Mitre. Normally I’d do a run-through of his career to this point, but Mike took care of that. We’ll just have to sit back and see what he can do against the Orioles offense, which ranks 10th in the AL in OPS.
The Yanks will face Rich Hill. The former Michigan Wolverine went in the fourth round to the Cubs in 2002. A fastball-curveball lefty, Hill had always been a strikeout pitcher. Problem was, he was also a wild pitcher, issuing an extraordinary number of free passes in college and his first few years in the minors. He broke out in 2005, though, getting his walk rate down as he pitched at three different levels of the minors. He also had an unsuccessful stint in the majors that year, but it was only 23.2 innings.
He got another chance in 2006, and pitched decently. His strikeout rate fell down to less than a batter per inning, but his walk rate settled a bit, too, to a manageable 3.5. He was even better in 2007, throwing 195 innings to a 3.92 ERA, striking out 183 and walking just 63. All the sudden, Hill looked like he’d reach his potential.
Yet 2008 was not so kind. Hill struggled early with his control, walking at least three batters per game in his first four starts, only one of which lasted six innings. On May 2 he walked four batters while recording just two outs. Manager Lou Piniella yanked him from the game, and the next day he was optioned to AAA. There he had back issues, and then in June was shut down and sent to work on his issues. In July the team said that Hill’s problems were more mental than physical. In August he faced more back problems and was placed on the DL, missing the rest of the year.
Over the winter the Cubs sent Hill to the Orioles for a player to be named later. He’s had enormous problems this year, with his walk rate up over 5.5 per nine. He’s had a few decent starts, but for every one in which he went six innings, three runs or better, he’s had an under-six inning, more than six-run start. Other than his standout start against Seattle on June 1, there’s nothing at all spectacular about Hill’s past two seasons.
Oh, and that failed cup of coffee in 2005? Part of that was at the hands of the Yanks. The Yankees were up three runs in the sixth inning on June 18, 2005. The Cubs starter, Glendon Rusch, came out to start the sixth, but walked Jorge Posada and gave up a single to Bernie Williams. In came Hill, who started off strong by striking out Tino Martinez, probably on one of those filthy curveballs. But he walked Robinson Cano — ROBINSON CANO — to load the bases. Derek Jeter was due up next. Perhaps this has jogged your memory. If not…
I was at a family gathering that day. Once Hill — I had no idea who he was at the time — came out and they cut to a commercial break, I guaranteed my uncle and cousin that when they came back they’d have up a note about how Jeter had never hit a grand slam in his career. Sure enough, they did. Moments later, Jeter took Joe Borowski deep, ensuring that commentators would never bring up that subject ever again.
Looks like the game will start at 7:30.
And on the mound, the newly-minted number forty-five, Sergio Mitre.
Some Yankee Stadium story updates before the game thread arrives: In the Yankee notebook in today’s Times, Tyler Kepner reported on some Monument Park news. According to Yanks’ COO Lonn Trost, the team has no plans to move Monument Park out from underneath the giant Mohegan Sun sports bar in center field. Supposedly, the logistics of a move and the fact that the monuments are fragile and set in stone preclude an off-season move. That’s a mistake. There’s no reason to shove Yankee history under a restaurant, and the prominent place Monument Park had at old Yankee Stadium should have been maintained.
In other stadium news, C.J. Hughes followed some Yankee fans to that bathroom on Friday, and everything went a-OK. That, of course, sounds far sketchier than it is. Hughes’ story focuses around how the Yankees and their security guards are now letting fans move freely during Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America.” After a recent lawsuit over the issue, politics, it seems, has been removed from the Seventh Inning stretch. · (17) ·
As the Yankees prepare to hand the ball over to Sergio Mitre tonight, the team needs to clear a space on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters. Mercifully, they have opted to designate Brett Tomko for assignment rather than sticking Mark Melancon or David Robertson back on the Scranton shuttle. The Yankees now have ten days to trade the right-hander or else they will release him. Tomko, 36, was 1-2 with a 5.23 ERA in 15 games out of the pen. His tenure on the Yanks won’t be remembered at all. · (62) ·